D-Day commemorated at museum
By Nathan Hardin
More than 750 veterans, family members and participants turned out Saturday for a special D-Day gathering at the Price of Freedom Museum on Weaver Road.
The event was held to remember military veterans, specifically those involved in World War II, as the nation observes the 67th anniversary of D-Day, the first day of the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944.
One of the oldest attending veterans, John Britts, 87, said it was an honor to be at the event.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” Britts said to a group of children.
Britts said it was his first time at the museum and he had just recently heard about it.
“I heard about it a month and a half ago, so I started putting my uniform together,” he said.
Surviving 360 air raids, as many as 10 a day, Britts said he participated in seven beach invasions in the Pacific islands.
Britts was one of many veterans Saturday sharing war stories.
Jimmy Carter, an 87-year-old Army veteran, recalled delivering ammunition in the same ammo truck displayed at the event. He also laughed with his family and other veterans while recalling a time in Germany when he fished with grenades.
The museum showcased more than 500 uniforms, as well as military vehicles, military weapons and demonstrations.
Bobby Mault, who started the military museum in the cafeteria of the old Patterson School, said it’s a dream coming true.
“It just shows you patience and time pays off,” Mault said.
Mault started his dream 30 years ago when he began collecting uniforms, beginning with Dan Ritchie’s of China Grove. Mault started displaying his collection at his Texaco station on N.C. 152 that he has run for years.
“I want to honor the veterans and teach the younger generation how to preserve history,” Mault said.
After teaming up with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to provide solutions to veterans’ questions, as well as with the Rowan County Department of Education to allow more than 1,500 students to tour the museum, Mault said he feels he’s on the right track to achieve his goal.
Mault said he plans for the museum to expand into the large building of the school and include rooms specific to each military branch.
China Grove Chief of Police Eddie Kluttz, who also served in Operation Desert Storm, spoke at the 10 a.m. flag ceremony.
Afterward, he said he was impressed with the event.
“It’s bringing heritage and history to our community and youth,” Kluttz said.
Sonny Karriker, event organizer and Carolina Military Vehicle Preservation Association member, said it was a great turnout and he was especially appreciative of the students who participated in the flag ceremony.
South Rowan High School’s “ROTC did a fantastic job,” Karriker said. “I’m proud of them.”
Karriker said he’s already looking forward to the Veteran’s Day gathering in the fall.
“We do it for this purpose, to keep it alive, to honor those veterans before us that made it all possible,” Karriker said.
Karriker specializes in Korean War memorabilia and hosted one of the many tables outside the museum.
One of his favorite things about the museum, Karriker said, is seeing the excitement on students’ faces.
“I think they’ve been impressed, I think they’ve been inspired and I know they’ve been taught,” Karriker said.
The museum is open on Sundays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and for special times upon request.